Abortion: what’s the answer?

22 November 2012

A sensitive subject leads to questions of preconceptions about the superior nature of humanity and the legalities of ending a life.

Abortion; a topic hotly debated for so many years and which will continue to be debated for many more. There are logical points on both sides of the argument which are repeated time and again: the foetus has the right to life, the mother has the right to what happens with her body. It is a debate so heavily shrouded in individual circumstances and personal beliefs that I doubt an acceptable conclusion for everyone will ever be reached.

Those who oppose abortion often state that from the moment of conception the foetus will grow into a human being capable of supporting itself; that abortion is murder. Some may argue that even though the foetus has no experience of the world and cannot defend itself it still has the right to live. Yet, many people eat meat from animals that have been killed even though they have experienced the world and can’t defend themselves.

Fossil records show how humans evolved from the apes around six million years ago. There is no denying the fact that we are animals. Biblical references aside, what suddenly makes humans the superior species able to control all other life? It is clear that humans are unique due to the fact that this debate exists, but if we’re going to suggest that aborting foetuses is wrong, should we kill other animals who have already experienced life?

As human population grows, more animals will be killed: for food, war and so on. And the human population isn’t showing signs of stopping its rapid growth: in 1999 child six billion was born; last year we hit seven billion; and the worst case scenario for the end of the century is sixteen billion. We regularly hear the problems of the growing population: limited space and food, increased pollution, climate change, loss of habitats and species. It makes me question the argument that adoption is kinder than abortion. In the year ending 31 March 2011, in England, 65,520 children were being looked after. Only 3,050 were adopted, a decrease on the previous year. If abortion was illegal it makes sense that the number of children being looked after would increase. But would the number of people wanting to adopt? If a mother truly does not want the child should she be forced to carry it? As population grows and fewer children are adopted, we cannot resolutely promise a good life.

These are just two points I’m choosing to focus on. Whatever the legalities, there will always be loopholes. Illegalising abortion would make women clandestine about their choices and have unsafe procedures which can jeopardise or destroy their lives. In England it is technically only legal to abort a child when two doctors agree that the pregnancy would be a danger to the mother’s physical or mental health. By legalising abortion we are recognising the importance of women’s health. Susan Lori Parks said: “What we do is bad. And good. And bad and good and good and bad. There’s no easy way to look at it.” It is your freedom of choice and belief which determine the side of the argument you stand on. Women and their partners deserve the same freedom of choice.

Georgina Spittle is a first year Archaeology and Anthropology student at Newnham College.